CUNY wheelchair basketball player invited to try out for Paralympics

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Stockton Photo | CUNY Athletics

Emanuela Gallo, News Editor

Queens College junior Seira Larrauri Garcia was invited to the 2022 Selection Camp for the United States women’s wheelchair basketball team, becoming the first CUNY athlete invited to a Team USA tryout in any sport.

It is Team CUNY’s first year competing in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.

“Seira exemplifies the resolve that drives CUNY students, alumni, faculty and staff including those with disabilities,” Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez said. “CUNY is cheering loudly as she pursues her Paralympic dreams.”

The tryout will take place from April 12 to 16 at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado. Only 29 US wheelchair athletes were invited to the tryouts and only 12 players and three alternates will be selected.

Garcia, who averaged 16.5 points per game this season in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, said she was in disbelief when she found out about her invitation.

“I had to read the email three times to make sure it was real,” the Puerto Rican native said.

Garcia was diagnosed with a degenerative disease that affects the hip joint called Legg-CalvePerthes when she was seven years old. She played standing basketball until she was 17 years old.

Garcia then began playing with the Puerto Rican wheelchair basketball team. In 2016, she played for the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Liberty.

Four years later, she began playing for CUNY, who launched  its women’s and men’s wheelchair basketball teams in 2017 via the Inclusive and Adaptive Sports initiative.

“She is also a testament to the success of CUNY’s Inclusive and Adaptive Sports platform,”

Matos Rodríguez said. “The initiative is a true model of inclusivity that allows students of all abilities and talents to benefit from team sports and interscholastic competition at the collegiate level.”

The program’s director, Ryan Martin, played a significant role in persuading Garcia to join.

“She’s had a great first season and been a key part of the launch of the women’s team at CUNY,” Martin said. “The whole University is behind her, and we wish her the best of luck as she starts her international career.”

Garcia is currently studying urban studies and intends to earn a master’s degree in psychology and a doctorate in sports psychology. Her long-term goal is to help homeless people and recovering addicts.

“We are inspired by Seira’s accomplishments as an athlete and a student at Queens College,” Matos Rodríguez said.

Garcia said she draws strength and purpose from her family, particularly her mother. She remains optimistic, despite seven surgeries and other challenges.

“Life can be great, if you allow it to be,” Garcia said.

While she is the first to be invited to a tryout while attending CUNY, others  have also pursued the Paralympics before or after their CUNY education. Hunter College alumnus Pat Anderson earned three Paralympic gold medals in wheelchair basketball before attending CUNY.

Queens College graduate Nicky Nieves made the sitting volleyball team but did not compete in the 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing. Garrison Redd, who graduated from Kingsborough Community College and York College, competed in the Paralympic qualifiers for powerlifting.

U.S. wheelchair basketball teams have won a combined 13 gold, two silver and eight bronze medals.

“We’re cheering for Seira Larrauri Garcia,” CUNY tweeted on March 25.

The Inclusive and Adaptive Sports platform will host seated tennis matches next month and plans to offer swimming as well as track and field.